A growing number of children are becoming obese as young as four or five years old, NHS figures have shown, sparking renewed concern about the obesity crisis.
Obesity is rising among children both in their first and last years at primary school, according to the latest annual measurements of children’s body mass index (BMI) in England.
Overall, 9.3% of four- and five-year-olds in primary reception class in England in 2015-16 were classed as obese, up from 9.1% the previous year, according to the national child measurement programme (NCMP).
The number of obese 10- and 11-year-olds in their last primary school year also rose from 19.1% to 19.8% last year – nearly one in five.
Richmond upon Thames in south-west London has the fewest fat children in England. In the borough, 11% of year six pupils are classed as obese.
In contrast, in the east London borough of Barking and Dagenham 28.5% of children that age were found to be obese.
Nationally, the number of reception children who are either overweight or obese has also risen, from 21.9% to 22.1%.
The same picture emerges with year six pupils, the number of whom found to be overweight or obese rose from 33.2% to 34.2%.
Health organisations, charities and campaigners such as Jamie Oliver have accused PM May of putting the interests of big business above those of public health and letting down children and families by publishing a “weak” action plan in August.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, was concerned about the data.
“Our nation has hit a devastating record high for childhood obesity. The trend over the last decade is showing no signs of slowing down, and this worrying news is something that could have been prevented with more government action. But the government still has a chance to save lives. It has already recognised the influence of junk food marketing on children by banning junk food advertising during children’s programmes. It’s time now to stop this influential marketing before 9pm.”
The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of health charities and medical organisations, said the figures should act as a wake-up call to ministers.
“Year upon year, we are faced with sobering figures that reveal an increasingly worrying trend – the number of obese and overweight children in the UK is not falling and is in fact rising. Today’s figures provide yet another wake-up call for all those intent on stemming the obesity epidemic – the alarm bells are ringing and there’s simply no time to hit the snooze button. These poor health outcomes mean we are failing our children, and future generations, if this trend continues,” said an alliance spokesman.
Levies on soft drinks, advertising restrictions and targets to reduce sugar and salt should all be priorities for the government, according to the alliance.